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Tag: Snowflakes

GTI Double Take: Modified 1983 and 1984 Volkswagen A1s

The black A1 GTI sold for $11,500 on October 30, 2021.

While not the fastest or the prettiest car Volkswagen ever made, the GTI represents the ethos of VW’s 1980s philosophy of cheap, fun-to-drive, and eminently practical cars for consumers. As they did when new, the first generation GTI also represented a car which gave much faster cars a run for their money. True, the 90 horsepower under the hood won’t scare a supercar. But what this car lacks in straight-line performance it more than makes up for in value.

You see, over the past few years we’ve watched the fan-favorites and driver’s cars from the 1980s increasingly price themselves out of the range of most enthusiasts. The esoterics are also forged in unobtanium today, and while there was a period where you could snap up cheap 80s products in Europe and import them, they’re going away, too. Sure, the M3 and 911 led the charge, but today a clean 190E 2.3-16 or Quattro will set you back some serious bucks. And then when you do get one, you need to worry about collector insurance, expensive and hard-to-source parts and whether you bought in a bubble.

The solution is still the giant-killer GTI. Find a clean one, and you’ll have a car that can be driven at 10/10ths still today and generate plenty of smiles, yet is relatively cheap to buy and very cheap to run. You’ll get thumbs up just like the 911 driver will. Maybe even more, honestly, because when was the last time you saw an A1 cruising around? Today I have two possibilities, from wild to mild. Which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen “GTI” on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

The arrival of the second-generation Scirocco in 1982 was, to be honest, not much of a revelation. It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the design, though how it came about is somewhat suspect. Volkswagen canned Giugiaro as the replacement designer for the exceptionally beautiful and unique first-generation car, moving in-house to Karmann for the second go at the Golf-based sport coupe. The result looked rather suspiciously like Giugiaro’s Italdesign Asso di Fiori from 1979 and Asso di Quadri from 1976, though – the car that became the Isuzu Impulse. Two years later, and Viola! the Scirocco II debuts from Karmann with a near-identical shape. On top of that, the mechanicals continued to be based upon the first generation Golf.

It wasn’t until 1986 that VW coupe fans finally got to rejoice as the addition of the PL 1.8 liter dual-cam inline-4 finally joined the lineup. Now with 123 high-revving horsepower, the Scirocco went a bit more like the wind it was named after. The wide-ratio, economy-minded gearbox of yore was gone too, replaced by a close-ratio gearbox. Like the GTI and GLI, 14″ ‘Teardrop’ wheels and a new bodykit heightened the boy-racer appearance, and the 16V models got all matchy-matchy before the Golf and Jetta, too, with body-colored painted bumpers.

Today they’re hard to find in good condition at all. But this Flash Silver Metallic example threatens to break your Radwood savings account wide open with its near-showroom appearance:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V on Bring a Trailer

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1983 Volkswagen GTI

I owned an A1 GTI once. It was one of the worst automotive decisions I’ve ever made. This comes from a man who bought a non-running Audi 200 Avant full of bees in a field in New Hampshire, mind you.

Back in 1998, I bought a non-running, rusty and very tired black over blue 1984 example for $300. I had every intention of “restoring” it to back good condition, but I was 21 and a poor college student and it was 14. But it wasn’t the age (or the mileage, Indiana), it was how it had been treated in that 14 years. After all, my current Passat is 17 years old and while it’s not perfect, it’s pretty damn nice. Heck, my M3 is 16 years old and basically looks and drives new. No, age was much harder on the cars of the early 1980s; plastics weren’t as durable as they are now, nor was paint. Metal was more rust prone and the electronics were no where near as reliable even though there were so far fewer in the car. To back my GTi up, you could simply look through the crease in the bodywork between the taillights and the rear floor where there was no longer metal. Every single bushing was gone, and what was left vibrated like an unattended paint shaker at Home Depot set to high. The paint was ruined – the car had clearly been hit at some point, so the passenger door and fender were a different shade of black than the rest of the car, which could more be described as dark gray spread very thinly over light gray primer. One time it started itself, which was a bit scary. Another time, it refused to start because the starter had removed itself from the transmission, but only enough to jam the gear into the flywheel. Then one fateful night one a ride home from a late shift at work, the fuse box lit on fire, consuming the functionality of all electrics save the high beams. I had sunk a few thousand dollars into keeping that car running and improving it over the year and a half I drove it. Ultimately I sold it for parts – for $300.

I won’t over romanticize my life with a GTI. I was not sad to see it go. I don’t wish I had it back – in fact, it may be the only car I owned that I never long to sit in again. Indeed, I even have more connection to a few parts cars that I bought but never drove. But, I will say that it did provide me with some entertaining stories. And when it ran right (there were at least two times), it was really a joy to be behind the wheel. There were glimpses of its former glory; you could get in, start it up and immediately be driving at 11/10ths everywhere you went. 40 m.p.h. has only felt near as exhilarating on my bicycle. And the shape was beautiful in such a strange, boxy way. I certainly wouldn’t mind owning a GTI (again), and every time I see one pop up I take notice:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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1987 Volkswagen Golf GT

The 1987 launch of Volkswagen’s fabled 16 valve motor into the Golf lineup created an interesting transition. VW had a high performance version of the GTI now, but it was also a bit dear at $12,000. So, VWoA decided to continue running the less-expensive 8 valve version for alongside for one more year (this was mimicked in the Jetta GLI lineup, as well). This split lineup would resume in 1990 for the GTI.

However, for the ’87-88 model year, VW added a third Golf performance version. Labeled the GT, outwardly it shared many characteristics with the early A2 8V GTIs. The same 14″ alloy wheels were there, black fender flares, special interior fabric, a 4-spoke sport steering wheel and red-splash decals front and rear. However, if you looked closely there were several differences to the GTI. The GT didn’t have the red-stripe trim outside of the more illustrious GTIs. Nor did it have the rear spoiler, sport seats, or a few other unseen details of the same-year GTI like uprated suspension and 4-wheel discs. So why get one? Well, first off it was a bit less expensive than the GTI. And, underneath it carried the same close-ratio 5-speed manual hooked to the high-compression RD 1.8 8V from the GTI. But the real benefit of the GT was that it came in more colors, with more doors (there was no 5-door GTI in the U.S. yet, nor for a while) and with an available automatic (again, not for the GTI). Of course, by the time you selected all of that stuff you were in GTI pricing…which meant that few GTs sold, and they’re very rare to see today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Golf GT on eBay

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1984 Volkswagen GTI

While not the fastest or the prettiest car Volkswagen ever made, the GTI represents the ethos of VW’s 1980s philosophy of cheap, fun-to-drive, and eminently practical cars for consumers. As they did when new, the first generation GTI also represented a car which gave much faster cars a run for their money. True, the 90 horsepower under the hood won’t scare a supercar. But what this car lacks in straight-line performance it more than makes up for in value.

You see, over the past few years we’ve watched the fan-favorites and driver’s cars from the 1980s increasingly price themselves out of the range of most enthusiasts. The esoterics are also forged in unobtanium today, and while there was a period where you could snap up cheap 80s products in Europe and import them, they’re going away, too. Sure, the M3 and 911 led the charge, but today a clean 190E 2.3-16 or Quattro will set you back some serious bucks. And then when you do get one, you need to worry about collector insurance, expensive and hard-to-source parts and whether you bought in a bubble.

The solution is still the giant-killer GTI. Find a clean one, and you’ll have a car that can be driven at 10/10ths still today and generate plenty of smiles, yet is relatively cheap to buy and very cheap to run. You’ll get thumbs up just like the 911 driver will. Maybe even more, honestly, because when was the last time you saw an A1 cruising around?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

12 Comments